Horse training from mental wisdom

Horse training from mental wisdom

Years ago I used to believe that training and being with horses was simple. Then I stopped thinking that and the reason why I stopped thinking it was easy was due to the fact that I realised how difficult it is to be in the present moment. It is not because it is challenging to be with horses from nature, but when you have grown into forgetting what your body sounds like when it talks and what your bodily sensations mean, then it can be terribly difficult. When you have gone so much into your head that you have forgotten all about what remains beneath your neck. That is when it becomes a challenge. I started my own journey into making this an easy thing once again and on my way I found a number of important abilities that are of essential value in our relationship with our soulful horses. Below I have decided to share with you some of them as well as why I find them to be key stones in our togetherness with the horses.

  • You need to be honest

Honesty is important in a lot of aspects of life and horse training is not an exception. One might wonder why honesty is important with horses as they usually won’t be offended if you tell them that you got a nice grade at school while you actually failed. No – I am not talking about little white lies. The kind of honesty I talk about in relation to horses as actually being honest to your horse in such a way that you are honest to yourself most of all. Whenever you are not honest about how you feel you will appear unpredictable to your horse. He will see with his eyes one thing and sense with his sensitive perception something else which will make him unsure of your presence. Always being honest to your horse will make him more confident in your company because what he sees and senses are the same thing and that calms him because he is then able to read you. This is also the reason why horses can be amazing guides in therapy because they respond to the discrepancy between what they see and what they sense. Some horses actually become rather unpredictable from this, but as soon as the student acknowledge to themselves (either loudly or just inside) how they feel, the horses will become relaxed. Why so? Because now they will see and sense the same thing and that makes them able to understand what is going on and what you are up to.

  • You need to be determined, but yet adaptable

There is nothing bad about being determined around your horse neither to make a plan before you go to the stable or catch your horse in the pasture. Actually it will at many times give you some kind of relief and peacefulness to arrive with a plan or an idea on what you would like to do on the specific day. That said it is at least as important to be able to adapt and change those plans if needed. Yet it often seems to me that people do either one or the other. The determined ones completes the plan they made no matter the circumstances and the ones “too adaptable” never really knows what to do and ends up doing nothing. You should always seek to find peace somewhere in between. If you go to your horse and has planned already before arriving to go on a 3 hour ride with him you should be able to quit the plan if you can see that he is completely exhausted from training the previous day. Being determined about something you wish to do will help your horse to find calmness because you are clarified and adaptability will help him trust that you listen to him every day and do not push him through something he can’t manage on the given day.

  • You need to be kind and patient

I guess this is almost self-said whenever we work with other living beings no matter if it is human beings, dogs or horses. Being with your horse is being with a friend. Your horse is someone you should care about and care for. Someone to whom you should listen and someone you should try to understand and guide. Being with and working with horses can be a huge mental challenge and test because all our weaknesses and dark sides becomes visible. Watching a person work with a horse tells just as much about them as a person as it does about the horse if not even more. One of the common triggers is loss of control. Imagine this episode…

You are one a ride in the forest when the path you are on suddenly splits into two. You decide from a distance to go to the right, but when you get closer your horse starts to go to the left. You now have three opportunities:

  1. Punish your horse for being disobedient and make him go right
  2. Take notice of the idea your horse shares, but tell him that you need to go right today.
    Maybe next time you can go to the left instead.
  3. Drop all responsibility and allow your horse to choose the direction and go left instead of right.

Which one do you choose and what does it tell about you?

No.1 If you choose opportunity number 1 it tells me that you are depending upon being the leader who is in complete control. I would say that you most likely are afraid of sharing your control because you fear that if you do so you will loose it completely, be tricked by the one you share it with or stepped on as a result. Also I would say that you might not act this way because you are strong, but actually because you are trying to hide your weakness behind a tough facade.

No. 2 If you choose opportunity number 2 it tells me that you have great empathy and dare to listen to the suggestions and ideas from others. I would say that you have great confidence or grounding in yourself and you are not afraid to hear the opinion of others. Just as you did when your horse made a suggestion. The fact that you still choose the route does not make you dominant or a leader because of the way it is done and due to the way you handled the idea from your horse. You handled it with understanding and acknowledged a second voice that allowed the monolog to become a dialog.

No. 3 If you choose opportunity number 3 there are two different possibilities. Either you match the same description as stated above as you make a decision to allow your horse the choice this time. Then maybe you will chose next time. It could however also be that you are afraid of making decisions or lead anyone else. That you do not trust yourself enough to say “thank you, but not right now”. I would think that this is a general thing in your life as you most likely have other situations in your life where you do not dare to take action, stand up for yourself or say your honest opinion.

Obviously what is stated above is just my personal experience, but still it tells something about how much of ourselves we expose when we are with our horses. If we dare to see our own patterns (or allow someone to help us do it) it can be the greatest gift as we will then manage to discover and work with our own weaknesses or soft spots. 

What is written above is very black and white, but the idea is just to make it really clear that our way of being with horses tells us a lot about ourselves. The essence of what I have written is that we gain so much more from our relationship with our horses if we take our time and allow them to help us become better human beings. If we allow ourselves to step back and observe our own responses it can help us move miles forward in our own way of meeting people, horses and the world in general.

  • You need to be trusting and confident

Being all on your own with your thoughts, ideas and voices in your head sometimes makes me forget how much horse training is actually about connecting to what you have got within yourself and how important it is to be aware of yourself in the company of horses. In our ever ongoing attempts of achieving impressive results and our performance oriented society, it can be a huge challenge not to become caught up in thoughts and expectations for yourself or your horse. This is the exact moment when it is of biggest importance to be able to find confidence and grounding within yourself. Not to mention how big a role it plays to be able to find trust in your horse on your journey as well. Trust is not an easy ability to acquire and it can be even harder when you are about to give it to an animal 5 or 10 times your size. Yet what I have experienced in each and every of my meeting with horses and their humans are that the more people have been trusting their horses, the more trustful and careful the horses have been. Trust comes straight back at you when you find the courage to share it with your horse. If you on the other hand always doubt his intentions or do not believe that he wants what is best for both of you, how valued do you think he must feel? Just imagine being in that situation yourself.

Now that we are talking about trust and confidence… Do you even allow yourself this trust that I am just now asking you to provide your horse? Do you trust that what you engage in will succeed or that you can manage things you have never tried before? Trusting yourself is the first step in sharing trust with others. Take a moment to consider and be honest to yourself. Do you trust yourself?

What I love most about this way of approaching and training horses is that either one of the mentioned points I have wrote about are exceptional to master in all aspects of life. If you are already doing great in every single of these aspects being with horses will be an easy job for you, but if you still have something you need to practice, being with horses will help you get there!

8 thoughts on “Horse training from mental wisdom”

  • Hi Sophie!
    Thank you for this awesome insight. When reading your blog I was often reminded of my horse and our relationship. There has been alot of fear in my stomach since I fell off once when we were out and about (but also before this happened, it was only a climax that had to happen at some point because he sensed that fear and got even more afraid …)
    Oppressing did not work, made it worse…it only started to get better when I started to acknowledge and accept my fear – which made me calmer and him more trusting again.
    That‘s what honesty is about for me – it was not necessary to lose my fear completely, which also is not possible – at least for me – but he was more accepting towards it, when I was honest with myself.

    The same applies for working with children by the way, although they are more easily being fooled as horses 😉

    Best regards and thanks again,

    • Hi Kathi. Thank you so muh for your beautiful words! What you are telling about is just another perfect example that suppressing our feelings among horses does not make things better in any way – more the opposite actually. It is not always possible to let go of fear, sadness etc., but what we can do to help the situation is acknowledging that we feel that way. Just like you did! Wonderful for you – such a great story. Thank you for sharing!

  • Hey,,, this is the first blog i read from you and I’m very impressed. It really shows me on what I have to work on myself but I’m not sure how to change that qualities into the positive. Is it about trying to feel our environment and other living beeings?
    All in all I’ll start reading all of your blog posts. Thank you for sharing you thoughts and your findings, It helps me and I think all of us 🙂
    Best reagrds

    • Hi Marissa. Thanks a lot for these lovely words. It makes me so happy to read that you like what you see! Most of what I have written about is something that will slowly start changing from the moment you become aware of it. As in the example of riding your horse in the forest. It is not something you need to actively change, but being aware of why you choose or act as you do can be of huge value and will help you develop. Does this make sense? I think it would be a great idea to read some of the other blog posts as well. Hopefully that will provide you some thoughts or ideas! Wish you a lovely day.
      Best from Sophie

  • Hi Sophie,
    I finally found the time to read this blog post and I am so happy I did. I find it so peaceful to be with horses and I love every second of it. But sometimes it’s so hard for me at the same time. I learnt so much about myself from being with horses and I still do. But I would lie if I would say that I am always happy about what I see, cause i am not. I am not aggressive towards my boys or don’t hurt them, but I know that sometimes I disappoint my pony with whom I’ve been growing ever since we met each other. Fortunately I am finding more calmness and peace inside myself at the moment. It’s so true that we have to be honest to ourselves first, so true. Actually I was shown several times that if I am not honest to both me and the horse it’s not gonna work. I didnt always used to be honest to myself or couldn’t handle that I might made a mistake, but ever since i learnt it, everything is easier!
    I think that people might find it difficult to work with horses with no expactions, because I think it’s natural for people to have those. We usually care about what other people think about us. We wonder what’s gonna happen tomorrow or we plan what are we gonna do after leaving the school. People think about future, but horses don’t. They live now and here, nothing else really matters. For me it was, and still is, hard to realize that. And even harder to do so. To live in the present moment. I can be very chaotic or in stress, and that’s not a good combination, especially not in horse world. So I am definitely the type of person who has to work on itself. I know it. But I love to grow next to those pure, honest and proud creatures. Actually, the truth is we are growing together.
    You and your amazing horses are helping me so much even though you don’t know about me, so I would love to thank you for it, because you opened up my eyes so many times. You are showing me that I can get there too. Thank you!

    • Hi Amalie. Thank you so much for this honest and pure answer so full of self-awareness.. It was a true pleasure to read and simply the fact that you are able to be so aware and conscious about yourself is an amazing beginning for you both. I know that it can be terribly hard to be satisfied, not to have expectations, to be honest etc., and we are all just in a process of learning. So am I. Every day I learn something new and understand a little bit more than the previous day, but that doesn’t mean that I too have days where I just feel like a huge failure, an awful person or completely useless.. I guess that is just part of the journey to have ups and downs, but what I have also learned here is to be kinder to myself. Or at least try to be so. I think that would be valuable for you as well. To stop blaming oneself for everything and be angry with own abilities and skills, but instead find happiness in the things that went good and accept that we need to have the downs as well in order to develop our skills.

      This is an interesting and everlasting journey and it is all about making a journey you can enjoy during both good and bad times. I wish for you that you find the love within yourself to accept that you (as well as the rest of us) have your flaws and your things to work on during this life! I wish you all the best fortune on this journey <3

  • Hej Sophie!

    Jeg har lige taget mig tid til at sætte mig ned, og læse den ordentligt igennem. Jeg føler at jeg måske står en smule på bar bund lige nu. For 2 måneder siden flyttede vi til et nyt sted, hvor planen var vi skulle stå vinteren over, hvor vi så i mellemtiden besluttede om vi sådan officielt skulle købe ham. Vi flyttede midt i en fantastisk periode for Lucky og jeg. 13 dage efter tog jeg første gang grædende hjem. Noget føltes helt, helt forkert indeni. Jeg bad og bad om at komme hjem til den gamle stald igen, men da det var baseret på ‘ren mavefornemmelse’ ville min mor ikke lytte. “Det kunne jeg umuligt vurdere efter 2 uger, og jeg skulle ihvertfald være der i et par måneder”. Jeg kan også godt se hendes pointe. Et sted jeg glædede mig så meget til at komme ud til, vil jeg lige pludselig væk fra, hurtigst muligt. Men der var ingenting galt med stedet. Det var problemet. Folk var skide søde, der var fine faciliteter og Lucky havde det ellers udadtil fint. Jeg havde absolut ingen argumenter, ingenting at fremvise for det synlige øje. Det gentog sig, og i takt med det, forsvandt glimtet i Luckys øjne, glæden ved at være sammen med mig svandt stille og roligt ud. Min største allerstørste frygt, mit værste mareridt var nu en realitet. Han så glad ud på folden, men når jeg kom hen til ham var det som om han bare blev ked af det. Han var overhovedet ikke interesseret i at komme med, og nærmest bad mig om ikke at tage ham ind. Jeg ventede altid med stor tålmodighed på ham, men da han endelig tog nogle slæbende skridt hen imod mig, tog jeg grimen af ham. Det føltes helt forkert. Jeg kunne ikke forstå det. Jeg vidste, det var skabt af mig. Jeg vidste at Lucky meget ofte spejler mig. Men hvad kunne jeg gøre? For jeg vidste at jeg intet ondt havde gjordt ham, jeg havde ikke engang haft ham inde og træne. Vi havde leget i ridehallen i et par gange og gået nogle ture. Jeg vidste ikke hvad jeg skulle gøre, og selvom jeg udemærket vidste det hele stammede fra mig, anede jeg jo ikke hvad der var galt med mig. Jeg tog tidligere, og tidligere hjem, og motivationen for at komme ud på den nye gård var længe væk. Alle mine mavefornemmelser havde vist sig at have en mening alligevel. Vi var faldet fuldstændigt væk fra hinanden på blot lidt over en måned. Endelig fik vi så lov til at flytte hjem her i den her uge. Jeg mærkede en øjeblikkelig ændring, men oplevelsen sidder stadig i ham og mig. Nu kan jeg rigtig begynde at arbejde med det reelle problem. Hvad det så end er. Så utroligt mange spørgsmål i mit hoved, og på samme tid føles det som om jeg mangler at finde de spørgsmål jeg skal besvare for at løse ‘gåden’ om du vil. Jeg ved godt at det ikke er så hvidt og sort, men sådan føles det lige nu. Samtidig har jeg jo ‘et liv ved siden af’, mht. skole, vennerog familie, som også har været meget påvirkede. Der er så mange ting jeg ikke kan forklare lige nu, og det føles som om jeg ikke engang er helt sikker på mine egne meninger og hvem jeg i realiteten er. Også fordi min egen erfaring og viden er så begrænset som den er, har det været utroligt hårdt. Jeg vil utroligt gerne have undervisning, men jeg ved ikke hvad jeg vil have undervisning i. For det er ikke det at lære Lucky at lave tricks, piaffe eller springe 120 cm jeg har brug for hjælp til. Jeg tror nærmere det er hjælp til at lære om mig selv, og vide hvad der er i vejen og hjælpe Lucky, at kunne være hans støtte, men på samme tid vil jeg stadig gerne arbejde fysiskt med Lucky, lære om jordarbejde og anatomi. Gud, hvor ville jeg ønske Lucky havde en fysisk stemme, og jeg har også overvejet at have Fillippa – som du vidst kender? – til at snakke med ham gennem et billede. Mine forældre er bare meget imod det, faktisk alt det jeg er igang med lige nu. De er nærmest en blandning af mig og traditionelle rideskole-holdninger. Men jeg bebrejder dem ikke, da det er meget svært at finde hoved og hale på. Især når jeg ikke ved hvordan jeg skal sætte ord på det uden at lyde komplet skør. Holy moly, du har slet ikke bedt om det her, og du behøver ikke svare. Hvis det ikke helt giver mening, er det forståeligt, da jeg endnu ikke helt ved hvordan jeg skal sætte ord på det, da dette kun er en brøkdel af de ting der sker omkring os atm. Åh, hvor er jeg ked af at det gang, på gang bliver hældt ud på dig, men dine tekster sætter virkelig noget i gang.

    • Åh Maya altså… Jeg ville ønske at jeg bare kunne give dig et kæmpe kram lige nu, og fortælle dig at alting nok skal blive okay igen. Det er jeg sikker på de nok skal! Jeg ved dårligt hvad jeg skal svare, men jeg er om ikke andet glad på jeres vegne over at I er kommet tilbage til trygge og vante omgivelser, da det tilsyneladende har hjulpet lidt på jeres situation. Hvis du virkelig tror at problemet er i dig (og ikke i ham), så er der kun 1 der ved hvad det virkelig er… og det er dig. Svaret ligger i dig, hvis det er der problemet stammer fra. Jeg ved godt, at det ikke nødvendigvis gør situationen bedre, men i det mindste ved du hvor svaret skal findes en dag, når du er klar til at lade det blive hørt.

      Det gør det helt klart ikke nemmere, at dine forældre ikke kan finde forståelse i din situation, da du lige nu er skrøbelig og har brug for støtte. Samtidig er det også klart, at det kan være svært for dem at forstå en situation, som ikke engang du forstår… Dit udtrykte ønske om undervisning med fokus på dig giver også god mening. Der sker mange ting i dig, som påvirker dit og Luckys forhold, og samtidig er du ude af stand til at sætte ord på hvad der foregår. Det er naturligvis også derfor, at det er dén form for undervisning du ønsker og har brug for lige nu. I virkeligheden er det du har brug for ikke at Lucky bliver god til noget, men at du bliver god til at være DIG og til at lytte til dig selv.

      Jeg ville ønske at jeg kunne gøre for dig, men det eneste jeg kan komme på lige nu skulle være mit tilbud om online sessioner. Det kunne måske være en mulighed for at vende fokus indad hos dig og styrke dit forhold til Lucky gennem en styrket forståelse af dig selv.. Du kan jo tænke over det og tage et kig på den sektion her på hjemmesiden. Ellers så giv lyd fra dig, hvis du har nogle spørgsmål eller undringspunkter!

      Knus og kram herfra..

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